Tom Goos 2016 Featured Image sizeIn late May, in a dark, smoky room in a hotel basement just outside of the White House grounds in Washington D.C., a special meeting took place. Were Paul Ryan, President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump meeting to call a truce to the political drama? Nope, it was our PPAI Board of Directors and staff leadership meeting to examine and update the Association’s three-year strategic plan. Okay, it wasn’t smoky or dark, and we weren’t meeting in a basement—we were in a sunny meeting room with an inspiring view of the White House—but our meeting was just as important to the industry’s future. Three months of intense preparation culminated in this two-day meeting.

Paul Bellantone, PPAI’s president and CEO, and I began our discussions about this day 10 months earlier. We pondered ideas we could employ to make sure it was successful. We talked at length about what we could do to prepare the board and staff leaders to gather information and think outside the typical strategic plan update.

One thing we both felt strongly about was hiring a strategic facilitator to help prepare our mindset and drive the conversation. We believed it was important to have a strong partner who had experience with disrupted industries and had worked with other associations through changing times. With the industry amidst disruption and many of our members experiencing tremendous changes, we knew the Association needed to learn to surf on top of the wave of change. We were pleased to engage the expertise of strategist Seth Kahan, who navigated us through the process that began earlier this year.

In preparation for this meeting, the following steps were taken: 1) PPAI held member focus groups at Expo East; 2) PPAI created a membership task force for input on a number of topics, and 3) Each board and staff member was required to read three specific books on innovation and disruption as well as countless articles on strategic planning and association change.

Over the course of the strategic planning meeting, we worked together to determine and discuss current and potential disrupters, examine trends and issues, and think strategically about how PPAI needs to prepare to meet the future and best serve its members and the industry. We scrutinized every word of PPAI’s vision and mission statements, we considered, we analyzed, we sifted through numerous ideas.

At the end of the second day, the board and staff walked away exhausted but highly invigorated about what lies ahead for PPAI and the industry—and we came away with a new PPAI mission statement supported by a fresh set of goals:


PPAI advocates the power and value of promotional products in the marketing and advertising professions to ensure the success of its members and the global industry.


PPAI is the trusted leader delivering essential knowledge, resources and community to ensure the success of our members and the industry.

The new mission hinges foremost on the word “trusted”—a role only PPAI, as the industry’s trade association, can provide. It also clearly reflects on the relationship between the Association and our members, and the confidence they have in us—I like that.


  1. Drive meaningful member value
  2. Advocate for the industry
  3. Develop and leverage strategic foresight
  4. Manage an efficient and progressive organization

These are high-level goals that will be supported with a number of strategies and tactics to round them out and bring them to fruition.

Among the new goals is No. 3 that focuses specifically on strategic foresight. With the velocity of change coming at our members, the industry and our Association, this goal is a strategic commitment to help us stay on top of emerging trends, constantly scan our environment, monitor opportunities and help our members prepare for and stay ahead of dramatic changes.

I’m thrilled with the meeting’s process and its ultimate outcome. We set out on a journey requiring preparation and two days of intense discussion, and emerged with an exceptionally strong three-year strategic direction for PPAI.

Now that we have a strong framework, we will build on these goals over the next several months and present them to the membership this fall.

The future is waiting. Bring it on.

Tom Goos, MAS, is president of Image Source, Inc. and PPAI board chair. Reach him at